Like A Man
“Yeah, my dad suggested I give it a go, follow on in the family business.”
What’s your father’s name? Read More
100 Years of Rock
Formed in Dunedin in 2008, now based in Wellington, Gold Medal Famous seems to be simultaneously mocking agitated electro-pop and celebrating it. The clanging dance-rock beats and drawled political lyrics sound – at best – like Chris Knox fronting Le Tigre. Of course, it’s entirely possible to imagine – at worst – that very same sound still. Read More »
Down For It
Vorn Colgan has been doing double-duty this year, releasing this new solo album and working as a member of manic electro-punks, Gold Medal Famous.
Down For It might be the first time you’ve heard of Vorn – hopefully it will steer you towards a back-catalogue of a half-dozen albums. Colgan is one of this country’s greatest songwriters, never cloying or faux-romantic; these are direct songs; honest, cynical, sincere, hilarious and in many cases ridiculously catchy. Vorn’s lyrics move from the struggle to buy condoms and having a crush on the girl at Family Planning (The Family Planning Song) to an acutely aware self-effacement (Stop Making Bedroom Albums).
Just when you think it might all be tongue-in-cheek you hear a gorgeous melody and a clever hook. Mental Health Issues In Newtown Pt.2 is a beautiful song, made all the more so for arriving on the back of the sludge-riff opener, Nah Blues.
Colgan’s deft skill is in singing about today; actual social commentary. And of course in making it all tuneful and witty and so much more than the obvious joke that is often in the title. A song like You Don’t Have To Hate Yourself To Sleep With Me (But It Helps) – split in to two parts near the start and end of the album – is worthy of mentioning just for the title. Call it a bonus that it’s a wryly observed short-story/song with the kind of hook you just don’t find all that often in local songwriting; heck in any songwriting for that matter.
One of my favourite albums of this year – and hopefully an introduction to a wider audience for one of our greatest songwriters currently on (or rather under and to the side of) the scene.
The Whole Love
For their eighth album Wilco continues to question Americana, to flip it on its head; to subvert it.
Here are Dylan-esque acoustic ditties with a running time that reaches double figures, art-rock explosions that manage to out-Radiohead Radiohead and post-modern balladry that is lushly produced and perfectly played.
It all fits together – all on one disc – and it all feels right.
This is a band at the height of its game and the time is right for another reinvention from Wilco. Compare them with Los Lobos and The Band, two other American groups that combine the separate vestiges of so many genres to make their own.
A magical album; a reminder that Wilco has, over the last two decades, been one of the most constantly inventive adult pop-rock groups in action – and The Whole Love just might manage to convert new fans, but it will certainly thrill existing Wilco followers.
Taking its name from the hypothesis that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems, Icelandic alternative pop chanteuse Bjork has bonded with her iPad to make another challenging, brilliant album.
Songs burst in to life and embrace aspects of dubstep and drum’n’bass, there are the soaring vocal passages we’ve come to expect and gossamer instrumental twinges.
Never content to rest on her laurels, Bjork is one artist that is constantly pushing herself and her audience and the rewards are obvious.
This album is among her finest work – and that’s really saying something.
Canadian singer/songwriter Leslie Feist first found fame as a member of Broken Social Scene, all the while releasing solo material under her surname. This is the fifth Feist album and should find favour with fans of Cat Power.
It’s also good timing given her announcement on the Laneway Festival bill. The songs from this album will certainly sound great on the stage. These are simple, lovely songs – no gimmicks, no tricks.
As a singer she’s not trying to stretch out toward jazz or soul – like so many fraudulent producer puppets. It’s remarkably straightforward and comfortable. And that’s a positive. Metals is certainly Feist’s most accessible album and is definitely worth a punt if you’ve not heard her previous work.
A Collection of Roxette Hits: Their 20 Greatest
I was surprised to find at least half a dozen really great pop songs on this Roxette collection. Timed to promote their upcoming – first – New Zealand tour, this CD/DVD collects all the hits.
And it is possibly too many for one sitting, the CD features 20 tracks.
But it’s hard to deny balladry like Listen To Your Heart and It Must Have Been Love and sharp pop blasts such as The Look, Dressed For Success and Joyride.
Unfairly dismissed by many as a dumbed-down Eurythmics there is plenty to like here. And the DVD is exceptional added value: over four hours in length it takes in all the hits, a mix of videos and live footage and there are a couple of documentary featurettes as well.
More than you’ll ever need.
It took Nick Bollinger’s 100 Essential NZ Albums book to remind people of Highway. And now we have a remastered CD version of an artefact nearly 40 years old.
It’s remarkable how great it sounds, from psychedelic jam-rock to country-rock, blues, sixties-influenced pop and back. There is a twist of Joe Walsh here; a touch of Paul McCartney’s best belting rock voice there. The opening track, Listen To The Band becomes a manifesto – and this reissue commands that you do listen to the band!
It would be believable that some might take this on as a new band, a brand new band. The performances are strong, the songs are fresh. A part of our musical history now has its chance to strut and fret its hour upon the stage (again). A gem that just might be the perfect Christmas gift for any Kiwi music fans out there who seem to have just about everything.
Without The Paper
Bella Kalolo’s journey, from backing singer to leading lady, was not without disappointments. The song Bathe In The River was written for her only to be told that Hollie Smith would perform it in the film No.2; Bella even dutifully performed backing vocals on the popular version.
But Without The Paper shows that the transition from hired-hand to leading-lady has been worth the years of hard work. From gigging around Wellington to playing at the famous Glastonbury Festival, Bella Kalolo and her band the Soul Symphony have won over fans and it’s easy to see why. She’s blessed with a strong soul voice – at times recalling the early Tina Turner and the songwriting is strong too; these are not just excuses for soul stabs, horn hits and some wondrous wailing – this is an album of crafted tunes.
The band absolutely kills it but they know their role, Bella is the star attraction. Live she has humour and personality in her performance, lifting it far away from the facsimile of soul that so many appear to hand in.
Without The Paper is proof that what Bella and her band has translates well to the studio. One of very few Kiwi soul acts that have actually delivered a great record.
Listen To Me: Buddy Holly
There is a great Buddy Holly tribute album on the market – and this is not it. This album is a classic reminder that if the original music is in circulation and you can’t improve on it in any way then there really is no point in simply honouring it with cover versions; that in fact the earnest covers are taking more away than they are giving.
It’s a good set-list but you’d be wise to make (or find) a compilation that treated you to Buddy’s versions of Not Fade Away and Everyday and True Love Ways. Here, Stevie Nicks’ bleat opens proceedings, Jackson Browne, Ringo Starr and Brian Wilson all phone in horrible renditions of songs that still sound fine when you listen to Buddy and Zooey Deschanel tries to cute-up It’s So Easy to a vomit-inducing level.
Add Linda Ronstadt, Jeff Lynne and Chris Isaak, all aimlessly mugging, and you have to wonder why this was allowed off the mixing console. A really horrible tribute album – one of the worst I’ve heard.
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings exist for the live experience and with each new album there’s a feeling that the band will never capture that energy from the stage and place it on the page.
I’m unsure as to why they have not simply released a cracking double live album. Maybe they want to keep the fans coming back to their shows and the studio albums are really souvenirs for the audience members that remember to take their wallets to the shows. There’s nothing here you need to hear – and it’s all so immaculate and slick that nothing sticks out as necessary; as adding anything to what Sharon and the band are about.
I’d rather sit down to listen to my copy of Etta James Rocks The House one more time.
But if Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings returned to town I would be there in a heartbeat. I might even recognise one or two of these songs for all that that would matter.
Made In Stoke 24/7/11
Here the former Guns’n’Roses guitarist looks the same, dresses the same and attempts to sound the same. But there’s two giant flaws – no one really wants to hear the non-G’n’R material (this includes Velvet Revolver, Slash’s Snakepit and material from the recent solo album with Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge) and lead singer Kennedy sounds like an overly excited school-kid mugging for the camera and attempting to be a scene-stealer when he’s a cameo role in this alleged renaissance for Slash. Read More »